In Defence of Aggression

Contrary to what you’ve been told, many London-based mediaratists and bloggers supported the papal visit, or at least opposed the opposition to it. Intellectuals are increasingly concerned with positioning and self-regard rather than what’s actually going on in the world: as David Thompson wrote, ‘In many arts subjects, especially those tethered only loosely to evidence, logic or practical verification, there’s often pressure to avoid the obvious and prosaic, even when the obvious and prosaic is true.’ The dominant tone is ironic detachment. The sin is to shout and rant. Passion in debate is seen as vulgar, strident and distasteful – even offensive. Ophelia reminds us that what’s more offensive is this tut-tutting and beard-stroking in the face of oppression.

And Barbara Blaine speaks; she is a survivor of priestly sexual abuse. She said this:

When we were children, and the priests were raping us, and sodomizing us, and sexually abusing us, we thought we were all alone – and we felt very alone, guilty, and ashamed. And over these past years, and even more recently over these past months, many of us as victims have found each other, and we have learned that we’re not alone. And I must tell each and every one of you: thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for all the victims, because today we recognize that you too care about the victims.

That’s why the protest was not mere grandstanding, or a party, or piling on, or any of that over-fastidious bullshit. It was, among other things, a yell of rage about what the Catholic church and its priests have been doing to people – including children – for its entire history, and in particular within the living memory of millions of people. That yell of rage is music to the victims. What do you think its absence sounds like? It sounds like indifference, or worse, endorsement. It sounds like the apathetic or enthusiastic agreement of the whole society that it’s perfectly all right for priests to prey upon and torment children, and get away with it. Imagine how that adds to the misery of the whole thing. Imagine what a relief it is to know that a lot of people don’t agree and don’t endorse.

Next to that fact, finicky objections to groupthink or the joy of protest just look callous at best, and revoltingly self-indulgent at worst. Someone at Facebook (SIWOTI!) made a comment in that vein:

People are having way too much fun laying into the Pope. It’s like a party, which is parasitic on the sins of the Catholic Church. People just love the frisson of protest, and I find that rather distasteful, given that it tends to be parasitic upon the suffering of other people (precisely the sorts of people one is supposed to be protesting on behalf of).

Barbara Blaine didn’t see it that way. She saw it the opposite way. No doubt people do just love the frisson of protest, but so the fuck what? If what they are protesting needs protesting, then so the fuck what? Why is that more important than, you know, saying this evil is an evil?

That’s my considered view.

There are worse things than aggression.

There is indifference.


One Response to “In Defence of Aggression”

  1. kay ebeling Says:

    What bothers me about protesting the pope is when he’s back in the Vatican the media goes on to the next “event.” Investigation of pedophile priest crimes is still going on, even though the Church fights it with teams of attorneys. Documents are being released. A case settled against the L.A. Archdiocese last week from a boy raped in 1999 and I had the only reporting on it at City of Angels Blog. New statistics coming from newly released documents put the average at 10 percent of priests were pedophiles, 10,969 have been found in the USA so far and still counting according to Bishop Accountability, reported at CofA Sept. 14. I write ongoing about these crimes at as one of the victims who also is a journalist. I’m astounded at the short term memory of the media. I’m astounded that reporters never ask questions, just all print the same thing each other prints. Thank god for blogs like this. Good analysis.

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